Rebuttal to Sam Shamoun's Article, "Muhammad's Inconsistency: Prohibiting A Lawful Marriage"


Bassam Zawadi


Sam Shamoun's article could be located here.

Shamoun summarizes his arguments:

  • The Quran permits Muslim men to marry up to four wives.
  • Muhammad refused Ali this right by prohibiting him from marrying another woman besides Fatima, his daughter.
  • Muhammad was worried that his daughter would suffer because of this marriage due to her great jealousy.
  • Yet Muhammad didn't apply this same standard to himself since he married multiple wives and showed more affection and love to some of his women. Muhammad didn't care that his attitude and treatment would (and actually did) cause great jealousy and emotional stress to his spouses.
  • Muhammad's excuse that the woman that Ali wanted to marry was a daughter of his enemy Abu Jahl doesn't fair any better since he himself had married the daughter of another of his enemies, namely, Abu Sufyan. Besides, Abu Jahl was already dead when Ali intended to marry his daughter.
  • By forbidding Ali what was lawful Muhammad ended up doing the very same thing he specifically condemned the Jewish rabbis and Christian monks for, e.g. demanding the believers such as Ali to obey him rather than to act in accord with the freedom and rights afforded to them by the Quran, thereby transforming himself into a god besides Allah.

In regards to the first point, yes, we agree that the Qur'an permits Muslim men to marry up to four wives (with conditions, of course).

Regarding the second point, it's not true that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) forbade Ali from marrying any other woman besides Fatimah in a general sense; he just prohibited Ali from marrying a specific woman in a specific context. Furthermore, the Prophet (peace be upon him), for all we know, could have been representing Fatimah's opinions this whole time. Fatimah could have told her father that she couldn't bear living with Ali if he married Abu Jahl's daughter and the Prophet (peace be upon him) was simply standing up for her. A father has the right to do that. In Islam, a woman has the right to divorce her husband if she can't bear him marrying another woman, especially if it goes against any prior agreements between the two. This is something known. This doesn't mean that she is forbidding him from marrying other women; rather, it simply means that if he were to do so, then it would come at the cost of her asking for a divorce.

In regards to the third point, we agree with Shamoun, and we would like to add that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was specifically worried about Fatimah's suffering in regard to her religion. He said, "I am afraid she will be subjected to trials in her religion". So here the Prophet's (peace be upon him) fear wasn't simply that Fatimah just had her feelings hurt where she would get emotional about a matter and then get over it. Rather, he was afraid that it would have a direct effect on her religious practices, which was extremely serious. Ibnul Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah said:

فلم تكن غيرته صلى الله عليه وسلم لمجرد كراهية الطبع للمشاركة بل الحامل عليها حرمة الدين وقد أشار إلى هذا بقوله إني أخاف أن تفتن في دينها

His (peace be upon him) jealousy wasn't simply due to his dislike of sharing partners; rather, the issue was about the sanctity of religion, and he indicated this when he said, "I am afraid she will be subjected to trials in her religion." (Ibnul Qayyim, Rawdatil Muhibbeen, Volume 1, page 315)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) knew his daughter well enough to know whether such a thing would happen given the situation.

The fourth point is cleared up by what I said in the previous point. It is evident and common knowledge that there is likely to be jealousy in a polygamous marriage. If, in monogamous marriages, we have women being jealous of their husbands because of the kind of women they work with in the office, for example, then no doubt we would expect one wife to be jealous of the other. However, that wasn't the concern the Prophet had (peace be upon him). He was more concerned with his daughter's well-being regarding her emotional state and religion. Furthermore, it is argued that both spouses must abide by the contract (either verbal or written) they made before they got married, and it was known that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stressed to Ali not to hurt Fatimah's feelings at all costs. This was a condition that Ali had to abide by at all costs since he had agreed to it. Since marrying the daughter of Abu Jahl would have broken that promise, he had to resort to not marrying her. (See Ibnul Qayyim, Zaad Al-Ma'aad, Volume 5, page 117) The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not see that the religious duties of his wives were at risk, just like his daughters. He saw they could not let their problems interfere with their faith, especially since they were married to the Prophet (peace be upon him), whose character was great enough to sustain their love and ensure their happiness despite any marital difficulties. (Read Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani's Fathul Bari, Kitab: Al-Nikah, Bab: Dhabb Al-Rajul 'An Ibnatihi fi Al-Gheerah wal Insaaf, Commentary on Hadith no. 4829, Source)

Regarding the fifth point, it is not true that the Prophet (peace be upon him) cited the girl as the daughter of his enemy as a reason for Ali not marrying her. Rather, the Prophet's (peace be upon him) statement was just a statement of fact in that he wanted to express the outcome. This is similar to Anas bin An-Nadir's statement, "By Allah, her tooth will not be broken" (Saheeh BukhariVolume 6, Book 60, Number 135). (Read Imam Al-Nawawi's Sharh Saheeh Muslim, Kitab: Fadaa'il Al-Sahaabah, Bab: Fadaa'il Fatimah bint Al-Nabi 'Alayhi Al-Salatu wal Salaam,Commentary on Hadith no. 4482, Source) The Prophet's (peace be upon him) intention was not to hurt the feelings of Abu Jahl's daughter, for she was a good Muslim. Rather, his statement was an attack on her father and not her. (Read Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani's Fathul Bari, Kitab: Al-Nikah, Bab: Dhabb Al-Rajul 'An Ibnatihi fi Al-Gheerah wal Insaaf, Commentary on Hadith no. 4829, SourceThis is even made clearer when we look at narrations where Ikrimah, the son of Abu Jahl, even after converting to Islam, was referred to as "the son of the enemy of Allah" (*,*).

Regarding the sixth point, the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself clarified that he was doing no such thing when he said, "I do not make a legal thing illegal, nor do I make an illegal thing legal." That in and of itself showed that Ali was free to marry the daughter of Abu Jahl. Still, it came at the cost of divorcing the daughter of the Prophet (peace be upon him) because, in that specific situation, it would have possibly led to Fatimah failing to perform her religious duties properly and because Ali promised not to hurt Fatimah before they got married.

In conclusion, no inconsistencies have been pointed out in the Prophet's (peace be upon him) character.



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